China ratchets up North Korea sanctions

On June 14, the Chinese government expanded
the list of products and items to be embargoed in accordance with the sanctions
directed against North Korea detailed in United Nations Security Council
Resolution 2270. China’s Ministry of Commerce issued a public notice (Number
22/ 2016) in cooperation with other government agencies, such as the Ministry
of Industry and Information Technology and the National Nuclear Emergency
Coordination Committee. The notice contained a list of items banned from export
and announced immediate implementation.

Articles included in the list include
dual-use items, which have both military and civilian application. This
includes over 40 kinds of items and materials which can be utilized in the
production of nuclear weapons, missiles, and weapons of mass destruction.

Among the materials that can be used in the
development of nuclear weapons and missiles are maraging steel, magnetic
alloys, variable frequency drives, high strength aluminum alloy, winding
machines, laser welding supplies, digital lathes, and plasma cutting machines.
The Chinese government has explicitly named 12 products that are banned from
export which are related to this type of weapon manufacturing.

Also included in the list were 14 materials
that can be used in the production of chemical weapons, including aluminum
chloride, sulfur trioxide, and tributylamine. Equipment used for chemical and
biological experiments such as pumps, valves, distillers, reactors, coolers,
absorbers, and HEPA fan filters are all banned from export.   

The announcement of these measure is in
line with commitments made to cooperate further with America and increase the
intensity of North Korean sanctions. Washington and Beijing reiterated their
collective position: they will not accept North Korea as a nuclear armed state
and announced the formation of a bilateral panel of experts to track the
progress of the sanctions at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue which
concluded on June 7.   

Some are perceiving other indicators that China
is sending a message to South Korea and the international community that it
intends to fully implement sanctions this time around. These indicators include
the fact that, very recently, large amounts of cash were allegedly seized from a North Korean
agent residing in the border city of Dandong on suspicion that he was complicit in smuggling illegal items.

“China openly declared that it would fully
implement a comprehensive set of sanctions against the regime after North Korea
conducted its fourth nuclear test,” said Lee Ki Hyeon, a researcher at the
Korea Institute of National Unification (KINU) in a conversation with Daily NK
on June 15. “We can thus interpret this latest measure as one dimension of that

Researcher Lee added that China is pursuing
a two-track strategy when dealing with North Korea by enacting sanctions but
also keeping dialogue open by meeting with North Korea official Ri Su Yong.
However, in the process of carrying out this strategy, he noted, China’s
Ministry of Commerce added these measures as a supplement.

“We can interpret
this as a sign that China has taken a major step forward. We can see it as
China’s clear message to the United States and South Korea that it is serious
about enforcing the latest round of sanctions,” he asserted.

Ahn Chan Il of the World North Korea
Research Center also weighed in, noting the need to view these measures in the
context of China’s apprehension of North Korean officials who were charged with
smuggling prohibited items in Dandong. “We can understand these measures as
China’s expression of will to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2270,” he

“China is walking in step with the
international community by ratcheting up the sanctions. With the announcement
of these measures, we won’t see the immediate damage it inflicts on North Korea
right in front of our eyes, but since the sanctions are cumulative, North Korea
is definitely going to feel the pressure.”